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senate vote 2018-02-14#11

Edited by mackay

on 2018-07-27 14:30:58

Title

  • Regulations and Determinations Basin Plan Amendment Instrument 2017 (No. 1); Disallowance
  • Regulations and Determinations - Basin Plan Amendment Instrument 2017 (No. 1) - Disallow

Description

  • <p class="speaker">Sarah Hanson-Young</p>
  • <p>I move:</p>
  • <p class="italic">That the Basin Plan Amendment Instrument 2017 (No. 1), made under the <i>Water Act 2007</i>, be disallowed.</p>
  • The majority voted in favour of a [motion](https://www.openaustralia.org.au/senate/?id=2018-02-14.247.2) to disallow the [Basin Plan Amendment Instrument 2017 (No. 1)](https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2017L01462), which means that instrument will no longer have legal force.
  • Greens Senator [Sarah Hanson-Young](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/senate/sa/sarah_hanson-young) (SA) explained that:
  • > *... we have a regulation before us in this place* [that is, the Basin Plan Amendment Instrument 2017 (No. 1)] *that suggests the Murray-Darling Basin Plan should be amended to take more water out of the river, to take more water off the environment and to hand it to big corporate irrigators upstream. It is rewarding bad behaviour. That is why today's vote is very, very important. Amongst this cesspool of water theft, corruption and mismanagement, why on earth would this parliament sign off on giving more water to the people who have behaved badly and less water to the river that desperately needs it?*
  • <p>This motion is very important. As a South Australian senator it is increasingly important to my home state of SA and, of course, it is important to the health of the entire Murray-Darling Basin system. After decades of debate on how we share the water throughout the Murray-Darling Basin in a way that would be fair and in a way that would keep the river alive, the Commonwealth and the various states came up with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan five years ago. The nexus of that plan was that too much water was being taken out of the river and the river just simply wouldn't survive unless something was corrected.</p>
  • <p>Five years on we've seen scandal after scandal, allegations of corruption and water being stolen from the environment&#8212;siphoned off by big corporate irrigators, only to simply feather their own nests. Yet hundreds of millions, in fact billions, of dollars in taxpayers' money has been spent buying water that is meant to be for the environment, only to then have no idea&#8212;as we've seen from leaked correspondence from the Environmental Water Holder and as confirmed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority themselves&#8212;how much water there actually is for the river and for the environment.</p>
  • <p>There are several investigations underway into a number of these allegations of theft and corruption. We have the issues in relation to Norman Farming. The Queensland senior crimes unit is investigating Norman Farming&#8212;which, I might point out, is run by a man related by marriage to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud. The minister's own relative by marriage is being investigated on issues of water theft and corruption. We have investigations underway in Victoria. We have a royal commission into water theft in South Australia. We know that there are New South Wales water bureaucrats being hauled into the Independent Commission Against Corruption because of allegations of water theft and mismanagement.</p>
  • <p>Despite all of this, we have a regulation before us in this place that suggests the Murray-Darling Basin Plan should be amended to take more water out of the river, to take more water off the environment and to hand it to big corporate irrigators upstream. It is rewarding bad behaviour. That is why today's vote is very, very important. Amongst this cesspool of water theft, corruption and mismanagement, why on earth would this parliament sign off on giving more water to the people who have behaved badly and less water to the river that desperately needs it?</p>
  • <p>I just want to point out that many people may think that in fact this Northern Basin Review and its results were actually written into the Basin Plan and that, as such, that voting on this disallowance motion is either voting for the plan or not. I want to be very clear: that is not the case here. What the plan allows for is a review, but it is up to the Senate to scrutinise that to ensure it is robust and appropriate. In the environment of all the allegations of corruption, water theft and a lack of credible data or reliance on science, it is right for this Senate to say, 'No, we're not going to take an extra 70 billion litres of water out of the river and off the environment to reward bad behaviour.' In fact what is allowed for in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a review, but there is no insistence that the water going to the environment should be increased or indeed decreased. You'd have to have the evidence on the table for that argument.</p>
  • <p>Of course, we've seen from many experts who have looked at the detail of the Northern Basin Review that that evidence just isn't there and that the assumptions that have underpinned this regulation are inherently flawed. For example, the modelling assumes compliance. We've seen over and over again that there is no compliance throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. There is no compliance that has been able to stop the theft of billions of litres of water that was meant to be for the environment, paid for by the Australian taxpayer, that is now being siphoned off into dams by greedy, big corporate irrigators in upstream states. In fact, the Ken Matthews review highlights clearly that compliance is lacking and insufficient. Yet that is one of the key assumptions that this regulation put forward by the government is based on, so it is already flawed from the beginning.</p>
  • <p>The MDBA have said themselves that compliance isn't good enough. We know that the environmental flows downstream must be coordinated, and there is no way that that can be measured properly by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority at this point. Of course, the lack of consultation in relation to this regulation is astounding too. The communities that are inherently going to be affected by this have cried foul and that this government and the process of this were corrupted from the beginning. The trust in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is wafer thin because people can see for themselves the mess that has been created by big corporate irrigators who have been taking too much water, getting too greedy and having a blind eye turned to them by the water minister&#8212;particularly the former water minister, Minister Joyce, who perhaps, if he'd spent a bit more time focused on his day job, would have known that this was going on.</p>
  • <p>But let's be clear: the Nationals from the beginning have not ever supported the Basin Plan to a point that would ensure the environment got its fair share. We know that right from the beginning the National Party criticised, didn't think the environment deserved as much, didn't care about downstream states and always tried to undermine this process. Of course it was the former water minister, Barnaby Joyce, who said that it was all a Greenie conspiracy that there were allegations of water theft and irrigators downstream crying poor and saying that the water was being ripped off by their big corporate neighbours. That doesn't sound like a Greenie conspiracy to me. It sounds like community members sick and tired of being ripped off by big players. Of course, the former water minister, Barnaby Joyce, boasted that, because the Nationals had the water portfolio, he would do his job to keep as much water for big irrigators as he could. This regulation that is on the table and that we are voting on here today is proof of that.</p>
  • <p>We know that there are significant problems with the way water is being managed throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. We know that billions and billions of dollars have been spent, and no-one can tell us where the water is and where the money went. We need an independent audit before we start playing with the rules. Voting down this regulation by voting for this disallowance motion will give the Murray-Darling Basin Plan the chance to be fixed, the chance to have integrity so desperately needed reinjected into the process and the chance to ensure that the river, the environment and those communities that rely on a healthy Murray-Darling won't simply be left high and dry.</p>
  • <p>There are parts of surface water that simply aren't metered at all. I must say, as a South Australian, that I'm very proud of how South Australia manages the water that comes over the border into our state. South Australians overwhelmingly are doing the right thing. Among the states, South Australia has the highest meter rating, with 96 per cent of all take from the river being metered. Meanwhile, as the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's own water compliance review found, in the northern basin it's as low as 25 per cent. That means 75 per cent of surface water diversions are not metered at all. We've got no idea, but what we do know, because communities are starting to cry foul, is that big corporate irrigators got too greedy. They got too ahead of themselves digging trenches, siphoning off water, pocketing the taxpayers' money and hoping no-one would notice. Well, we have noticed. We've noticed right throughout the basin, particularly down in South Australia, and we're not happy about it.</p>
  • <p>This instrument cannot go ahead if we want a Murray-Darling Basin Plan that is actually going to work for the river and the communities that rely on it. We should not be rewarding bad behaviour. Big corporate irrigators are ripping off the river and ripping off the taxpayer, and all this instrument does is reward them. The Senate should vote for this disallowance motion, send it back to the government and say: until you clean up this mess, there is no way we're going to start to take more water off the river just to give it to those who have already been too greedy by far.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>